I’ve had many Christians tell me that happiness and joy are different. They say that joy is something we can always have, but happiness is solely based on circumstances.
I get it. Joy is deeper than happiness.
But I also think they are totally and completely inked to one another. To think that I could be full of joy and unhappy just doesn’t make sense.
And I think God cares about our happiness.
For a long time, I thought that if I got married, I would finally be happy. A lot of pressure to put on that future spouse, no?
Well, I was happy. For a bit.
And then some unhappy feelings hit, and I didn’t know what to do with that. Why wasn’t I happy? What was wrong with me? I had what I had always wanted, so why couldn’t I be lightly happy?
My husband (yes, he’s brilliant) would tell me that happiness comes from the inside, not the outside. I would look blankly at him, thinking that I had Jesus on the inside, so what was my problem?
What he meant is that happiness is more of a state of mind than a reaction to circumstances. Yes, it’s affected by circumstances, but it also overrides them. You may think he’s talking about joy right now, but I still think it’s happiness (or maybe it’s both, they’re so related).
Happiness is affected by external circumstances, but circumstances only make us temporarily happy. If we want happiness that continues, it has to come from the inside.
Happiness comes from daily choices. Every morning, I can choose to be grumpy and annoyed that I had to wake up earlier than I wanted. Or, I can choose to be grateful to be alive for another day.
When difficult circumstances hit, I can choose to be destroyed by them, or to acknowledge their difficulty, but to still hope… Hope is a verb.
When it seems like I’ll never get what I want, I can choose anger, or decide to be grateful for what I have.
Happiness is a perspective on all of life that chooses gratefulness over anger and hope over despair.
Lest you think I’m just being unrealistic, can we take a moment to remember how much worse it could be? I’m grateful I live in a place that’s not at war. I’m grateful for access to good medical care. Though I’m not thrilled with the political situation right now, I’m grateful that I may influence it and I hope it will be okay.
It’s real to feel sadness, but for it to often lead to despair is usually not realistic. Things usually aren’t that bad.
It’s real to feel anger, but to allow it to make a caricature of the person with whom we’re angry or of our lives is usually not realistic. When we make a caricature, we only focus on what has angered us, and that becomes our understanding of who that other person is and ignores anything good about them. Focusing on the negative robs us of happiness.
Yes, maybe this is simply glass-is-half-full thinking.
And if that’s the thinking that makes me happy, I’ll take it!! Training our minds for happiness is just like training them for contentment.
And sometimes the simple act of smiling just makes us feel better.
I’m trying to choose happiness every day. And it’s working. Want to join me?
* In no way do I intend to oversimplify the struggle so many have with depression. While some of the habits I describe may be helpful for them, there is a significant difference between those who have a chemical imbalance and those who can simply change their choices and be happier. This post is primarily for the latter person.